The Guardian's running a series about what it's like to work in the aid business. Apparently it's a nightmare of bureaucracy, infighting and inefficiency. This should not surprise us:
I recently resigned from my job with a non-governmental organisation in Africa. After years of working in the sector, I have been left disillusioned with the ethos and impact of these organisations.
The sector is filled with the wrong people with the wrong motivations and the wrong agenda. It is, after all, a business enterprise worth $27.3bn, at least in 2016. Missions in country are incentivised by money. The more you can raise, the happier your colleagues in the region and in headquarters because some of that money goes into paying their salaries and office rents – and your performance in the country is linked to that, rather than the quality of the programmes you are running.
In the eyes of senior management, a successful humanitarian operation is based on two key indicators: how much money you raise with the donors and how many beneficiaries you have reached with the aid money you have been given. However, in my experience, what is not measured is how well you have managed projects in addressing the real needs of the intended recipients, how accountable you have been to them, and how quickly you have been able to address their urgent needs in humanitarian emergencies.
Why shouldn't this surprise us? Because this is just what will happen if and when we measure success as we do. Think on how we do in fact measure overseas development aid, that levy upon our own tax payments so graciously sent off to foreign climes by the government.
We don't measure what is done with it. We don't measure the efficiency with which it is spent. We don't even, to any great extent, measure the effect it has. Instead we pat ourselves on the back - or perhaps those who send our money pat themselves on their backs for sending our money - for sending a certain amount of money. An amount that modern politics seems to think is inviolable.
We've a budget that must and will be spent with little to no attention paid to how or why it's spent? Who expects anything other than bureaucracy, inefficiency and infighting? Or, as we might put it, the gross wasting of that cash lifted from our wallets?